I’m angry. Choked. Furious. In two years, I’ve lost my dad, job and marriage. My candidates lose spectacularly in every election. And in the last NHL playoffs, my beloved Boston Bruins imploded, losing four straight games after leading three games to zero.
Sure, I could get therapy. But instead I’m trying to fix myself by following self-help gurus, books and treatments, all around the world.
This week: I’m treating my anger at a “wellness hotel.”
I’m a guest of Sparkling Hill Resort, a new luxury hotel perched in the Monashee Mountains near Vernon, B.C. I’m here because their spa is the first in North America to offer the healing powers of Whole Body Cryotherapy. This means they charge you $40 to shove you into their “cold sauna” for three minutes. This is basically a human meat locker set to -110 C, a mere 108 degrees colder than the freezing point of pork. It’s a flawless plan.
Apparently the cold sauna helps heal your arthritis, insomnia, rheumatism, fibromyalgia, itching, psoriasis and musculoskeletal disorders, and improve your mobility, reduce chronic pain and soreness, while rejuvenating and revitalizing your whole body. So many promises! It’s like the cold sauna is running for mayor.
Sparkling Hill’s resort manager, Hans-Peter Mayr, claims the cold sauna will even defuse my anger.
“The Cold Sauna is excellent for improving mood,” he says. “People exiting the cold sauna feel like they have the energy to lift a tree out by the roots.”
Perfect. I HATE TREES.
But why the three-minute maximum?
“There are no health benefits beyond three minutes,” Mayr says. Which is another way of saying “You will die.”
The cold sauna’s attendant tells me to wear very little clothing.
“Bulky clothes like bathrobes trap moisture so you feel even colder,” he explains.
So all I’m wearing is sneakers, shorts, earmuffs, mouth mask and fluffy white Mickey Mouse gloves. I’m completely bare-chested because that’s what Matthew McConaughey would do.
The lab attendant checks my heart rate. My heart’s beating like a maniac. The attendant tries to assure me by saying, “Everyone’s nervous beforehand so I never see a normal heart rate.”
That’s when I realize I’m scared. Cold is my mortal enemy. I’m bald and thin — if you walk past me too quickly, I shiver from your breeze.
I take a hesitant step toward the cold sauna, which are actually three connected six-foot-by-six-foot chambers. The attendant opens the first door. My mind flashes to my sister-in-law. She lovvves winter so when I whine about the cold, she says “Suck it up, princess.”
So I enter the first deep freeze. This chamber is set to -12 C but without any wind, it’s surprisingly tolerable. Ha! This’ll be a cakewalk.
I nod at the attendant who opens Door No. 2. I shuffle inside the second chamber. Its temperature is -60 C.
And this cold hurts like a bastard.
Apparently lots of first-timers quit at this point. Not me. I’ve vowed to say “Yes” to everything this year, especially when it scares me.
The attendant opens Door No. 3. I suck in a fearful breath then shuffle into the final chamber. The door slams shut behind me.
Suddenly I’m punched in the face by -110 degrees of mean. Imagine a punishing, omigod-I’ve-made-a-terrible-mistake, Andes-plane-crash depth of cold, and you’re halfway there. This cold is brutal.
The chamber floor is frosty but you’re supposed to keep moving. So I pace in tiny cautious circles, muttering, “I can take it, I can take it.”
But after 60 seconds, I suspect I can’t. My heart is hammering and my chest shudders uncontrollably. They’re supposedly playing soothing music, but I can only hear my teeth clacking.
My forehead starts throbbing. Pain? Anger? Maybe it’s both: Painger.
After 120 seconds, I feel ice crystallizing on my eyelashes. I think to myself, “What a boneheaded way to die.”
My thoughts flip to a buddy suffering from the flu. When he explained to his three-year-old son that Dada was sick and his body hurt, his son said, “Breathe Dada … let the pain be the pain.”
Sage advice. So I try to let the pain be the pain. And it works! For the pain, that is, not me. A screaming headache surges across my skull like Mongol warriors invading Europe.
I’m two and a half minutes in now. Only 30 seconds left but I’m not going to make it.
You know how a snowdrift feels warm just before you freeze to death?
I don’t feel that at all. I’m just colder than anyone has ever felt except for dinosaurs on their last day.
Suddenly the door opens. Freedom! I stumble out, gasping for breath. Somebody high-fives me and I worry my arm will snap off. My skin tingles in an approximation of joy.
And that’s when I realize:
I’m not angry anymore. I don’t feel like ripping trees out of the ground. I’ve survived a near death experience! It feels like all my body parts are giddy with the Miracle of Life. And if my tongue ever thaws, I have lived to tell the tale.
Try it yourself some time. I know I’m glad I experienced the cold sauna. Because like torture, genocide and Nickelback, it feels so wonderful when it finally stops.
Sparkling Hill Resort is a 35 minute drive from Kelowna, B.C., accessible via WestJet and Air Canada. For more information, call 1-877-275-1556 or visit sparklinghill.com.
A three-time winner of the gold National Magazine Award, Ken Hegan loves hot tubs and warm postcards. Visit him at kenhegan.com.